Fans of the Pebble smartwatch may be pleased to learn that their experience when using the device with an iPhone is about to get a whole lot more reliable, thanks to new changes Apple is making to iOS 7‘s Bluetooth profile.
Discovered changes to the Bluetooth LE profile in iOS 7 suggest that Apple is further looking to open up the Bluetooth protocol used in the upcoming software update to better allow ‘persistent’ states of connection for low-powered LE devices, such as smartwatches.
With iOS 6, users who connected their Pebble to their iPhone may have experienced the need to install Pebble’s official mobile app in order to get the device to recognise and push notifications to their wrist. Some may also have encountered the intermittent issue in which iOS would sporadically close the Bluetooth connection to their Pebble watch in order to free up system memory.
Thankfully, the public release of iOS 7 will change this.
“The big change for Notifications on devices like Pebble will be thanks to the new Apple Notification Center Service (ANCS). In iOS 6, developers had to rely on unreliable services for basic notifications or force the user to run an iOS app in order to send notifications from other third-party apps and services,” Jordan Kahn writes for 9to5Mac.
“With ANCS in iOS 7,” though, Kahn says that Apple is “opening up full access to Notification Center, allowing Bluetooth devices to automatically receive any notification event from your iOS device by default.” … “iOS 7” he says, “will also automatically reconnect to the device without need for a third-party app.”
In addition, Apple is also adding a ‘State Preservation and Restoration’ service:
“The State Preservation and Restoration service for Bluetooth in iOS 7 will mean huge improvements for Bluetooth devices like smart watches. Previously, for apps that run in the background and communicate or share data using CoreBluetooth, the application might be terminated to free up memory for other apps. In iOS 6, that could mean the app no longer talks to a connected Bluetooth device.”
“Apple has fixed this with the new Preservation and Restoration service,” Kahn says, adding that the service can now “determine why an app was terminated” and have iOS 7 “step in and continue running the app until it needs to be relaunched.”
YouTube user gatesjr3 demonstrates the new functionality, which would appear to suggest that the installation of the official Pebble iOS app is no longer required to get the smartwatch to respond and function (as intended) with Apple’s iPhone, when using the wrist-based device under iOS 7.
In reponse to a commenter asking whether or not the user had to fiddle with iOS’s notification settings during the period of using Pebble without the official app installed in order to get it all working, gatesjr3 replied: “I have not changed any settings in the last 2 days and it has been working great.” … “I have walked out of range of the phone and it still works for me,” he added.
While this method of operating Pebble will obviously work for the time being, (whilst iOS 7 is still in its “beta” phase), it is so far unclear if Pebble will adopt it as the ‘official’ method of using Pebble with iOS 7 going forward.
In a statement given to 9to5Mac, the company said:
“We’re excited about the new APIs that Apple is planning to add in iOS 7. We will be experimenting with the iOS 7 betas to make Pebble integrate even better with iOS devices and plan to support the new features by the time iOS 7 is released.”
Of course, it’s not just Pebble that will be positively affected by this change. The new changes to Bluetooth LE, and the additions of both the Apple Notification Center Service (ANCS), and the Preservation and Restoration service, are only set to make Apple’s iOS devices even more prepared for all other Bluetooth LE supported wearables which may hit the market in the future.
iOS 7 will be available to everyone, this Fall. Those who have already subscribed to Apple’s iOS Developer Program, however, can get their hands on an early “beta” version of the software, by heading to developer.apple.com.